One in two Australian men will develop cancer in their lifetime, a rate that is shockingly more than double the world average.
Alarming new figures from the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reveal that Australian and New Zealand men are leading world cancer rates, despite both countries spending millions on health care initiatives to lower disease rates across the board.
The report shows there will be an estimated 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths in 2018. Among men, the cumulative risk of getting cancer over a lifetime (measured as birth to 74 years) is 49 per cent, more than double the world average of 22 per cent. For women the rate is 33 per cent, almost double the world average of 18 per cent.
While cancers of the lung, female breast, and colorectum were named as the top three cancer types in terms of incidence, Australia’s high rate of skin cancer was blamed for sending it to the top of the chart.
Researchers found lung cancer is responsible for the largest number of deaths (1.8 million deaths, 18.4 per cent of the total), because of the poor prognosis for this cancer worldwide. Lung cancer rates were especially high in Denmark and The Netherlands, as well as China, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Dr Freddie Bray, Head of the Section of Cancer Surveillance at IARC, said pubic awareness campaigns had reduced active smoking and prevented involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke in many countries, but there was still work to be done.
“Given that the tobacco epidemic is at different stages in different regions and in men and women, the results highlight the need to continue to put in place targeted and effective tobacco control policies in every country of the world,” he said.
Following lung cancer, the types of cancer responsible for the largest number of deaths were colorectal cancer (881,000 deaths, 9.2 per cent), stomach cancer (783,000 deaths, 8.2 per cent), and liver cancer (782,000 deaths, 8.2 per cent). Female breast cancer ranked as the fifth leading cause of death (627,000 deaths, 6.6 per cent) because the prognosis is relatively favourable, at least in more developed countries.
The increased cancer burden around the world was attributed to several factors, including population growth and ageing as well as the changing prevalence of certain causes of cancer linked to social and economic development.
“These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play,” IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild said.
“Efficient prevention and early detection policies must be implemented urgently to complement treatments in order to control this devastating disease across the world.”